Nov 292016

Helen interviews Maria Ciavarella

maria01Helen has now completed her first interview, which was with Maria Ciavarella from Donvale. If you read it, you will see that it is a doozy. To give a flavour, here is the first paragraph: “Maria Ciavarella is well known around North East Melbourne for the abundance of informative and practical workshops that she runs, with topics ranging from sustainable home growing food practices to food preserving, jam and passata making. Meeting Maria for the first time, I am struck by her generosity – from the fresh, delicious scones that await my arrival to the huge quantity of mulberries she picks for me from the largest mulberry tree I’ve ever seen – whilst we talk in her garden.Read the full interview.

Editor’s note: now that you have read how complimentary(!) Helen is about the people she interviews, would you like to nominate someone for interview? Even yourself? All they need to be is a home grower with something interesting to say. Just email me with your suggested names.

Mac’s tip of the week

It is called the Three Sisters. If space is limited, or even if not, the sisters get on well and help each other out (i.e. companion planting). Maize, climbing beans and squash (aka sweetcorn, beans and pumpkins) – a very old combination. Plant the sweetcorn first as structural support. Then, once growing, plant climbing beans around the base, maybe 4 per corn; the beans climb the corn while also adding nitrogen to the soil to help the corn. Once beans have grabbed hold, plant the pumpkins, which then shade the soil to retain moisture, gain nitrogen from the beans, and may also climb the older corn. Messy but very productive in a small space. Google for more info. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Editor’s note: I first read about the Three Sisters in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is a fascinating book about why Eurasian civilizations, rather than anyone else, conquered the world. Part of his theory is that, whilst the Native Americans had cultivated sources of protein in both beans and sweetcorn, both the pulses (e.g. peas and lentils) and the edible grasses (e.g. wheat) in the Fertile Crescent were better sources of protein. So, the people in the Fertile Crescent could live closer together and could form more complex societies. So, the current composition and distribution of the world’s population depend on where lentils happen to have originated!

A new food swap in Brunswick

Hosted by SEEDs Communal Garden. The 2nd Saturday of every month, from 11am to midday. 331 Albert Street, Brunswick. Facebook: seedscommunalgarden. Email: Maxine at

That brings the grand total of food swaps in North East Melbourne to a whopping 28. See the website for the full list.

Do you want a free gum tree?

Vicki Jordan has a self-seeded gum tree in a pot to give away. It is currently 2 metres high but, over time, will grow big. Pick up from Lower Plenty. If interested, email Vicki.

A couple of weeks ago, we asked for help to maintain the planter boxes in Diamond Creek. Thanks to Julie for responding – Pam Jenkins says that she has already made a noticeable difference.

Home Harvest FEASTival news

seedlingThe Home Harvest FEASTival is a celebration of local food and the summer harvest featuring a shared harvest meal to be held at Edendale on Sunday, 26th February. Your donation of homegrown produce = your ticket to attend. They have a Facebook group

People who have registered receive the occasional newsletter. The last newsletter included two broad bean recipes by Duang Tengtrirat (aka the best cook in Nillumbik): broad bean soup and broad beans linguine with ricotta. We now have 6 broad bean recipes in our website database and 10 recipes by Duang.

Another of the newsletter’s articles concerned Beales Road Farm and The Veggie Empire. Beales Road Farm started three years ago in response to the social isolation being experienced by the leaseholder of the land in Greensborough where it is based. The leaseholder, Hayden, has autism and needed to meet new community members to help him feel safe and connected to his community. Gardening was something that he was interested in. Eighteen months after it began, a small community gardening team known as ‘The Veggie Empire‘ joined the original gardeners and have helped develop the food system into a vibrant and viable local food system. The team have been involved in one way or another since the first Home Harvest Feast in 2012. This year they are growing leeks, tomato, eggplant and zucchini and are looking forward to celebrating local food within an inclusive community activity.

Victorian Pleasurable Food Education Package

Pleasurable Food Education is what the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation (SAKGF) call their food education program. The Victorian Government recently announced that they were subsidising the program, to reduce the cost to a school to $550. healthAbility has just announced a further, Nillumbik-only subsidy, which reduces the cost to a school to $275. Click here to read about the program or click here to read about the latest offer.

Congratulations to Alan, Greta and Robin

The 2016 Banyule and Darebin Sustainability Awards included three newsletter readers: Alan Leenaerts (Montmorency Sugar Glider Project), Greta Gillies (a Local Hero) and Robin Gale-Baker (also a Local Hero).

Whenever I decide to include a news item like the above, I also do a bit of Googling to see if there is anything else to say. This time I discovered that newsletter readers, Going Green Solutions, won the North Melbourne 2015 Award for Industry-Education Engagement.

Congratulations to Carol

Newsletter reader Carol Woolcock’s garden featured in this month’s Permablitz re-visited.

Spare Harvest website

Spare Harvest is a new website (and app) which is designed to enable local communities to help connect, share, swap and sell all things related to gardening and growing food.

It is similar in concept to the RipeNearMe website.

And, finally, as reported by Local Harvest: the Tinder of food waste, ShareWaste.

garlic-farmerGarlic farmer

Courtesy of Lucinda Clutterbuck, see picture right.

New events

Summer pruning

What: Led by Chris England. Using the demonstration fruit trees in the orchard of the Burnley Gardens, you will learn how to summer prune fruit trees and also how create espaliers. Summer pruning gives you maximum fruit in a minimum space. Then, under Chris’ watchful eye, have a go yourself.
When: Saturday, 3rd December, 10am-1pm.
Where: Burnley College, Richmond.
Cost: $75.
Enquiries/Bookings: Friends of Burnley Gardens by phone (9035 6815) or email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Absolutely famished community day

What: Explore the food cultures and gardening traditions of migrants and refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East living in inner city Melbourne, sample a selection of culturally diverse foods, and talk to cooks and gardeners from the local community. Rare and unusual food plants for summer growing will be on sale including sweet potato, kang kong, ginger and turmeric. All plants have been grown through a collaboration between participants at the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre and staff and students at the Burnley Campus of the University of Melbourne. There will be free consultations on growing these food crops in Melbourne’s climate.
When: Saturday, 3rd December, midday-3pm.
Where: LAB-14, Carlton.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Chocolate discovery class

What: Anyone aged 12 & above can join them for a one-hour chocolate discovery class, indulging in a range of chocolate tastings, crafting your very own chocolate bar, and delighting in six handmade filled truffles, while each is passionately explained by their European Chocolatier.
When: Saturday, 10th December, 11.30am-12.30pm.
Where: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie, Yarra Glen.
Cost: $40.
Enquiries: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie by phone (9730 2777) or email.
Bookings: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Gingerbread houses

What: For children aged 4-11. Each child will be provided with a uniform and will receive a certificate of workshop completion. Bookings (by phone or email) essential.
When: Saturday, 24th December and Sunday, 25th December, both 1-5pm.
Where: Third Place Cafe, Wollert.
Cost: $50.
Enquiries/Bookings: Sibelleus Chefittles Express by phone (0406 653430) or email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).

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